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Smithsonian


  • Originally published 12/05/2013

    Smithsonian gets $1M to save endangered languages

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has received a $1 million grant to launch a long-term initiative to digitize and preserve recordings of endangered languages.

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Congress lawmakers plan new legislation for Latino museum

    Lawmakers are introducing new legislation in Congress to create a national Latino American history museum.Two years ago, a presidential commission called for the creation of a Smithsonian American Latino Museum. But the effort has stalled in Congress....

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Smithsonian searches for Berry Gordy portrait

    Detroit— The Smithsonian Institution has been on a two-year hunt for a fabled oil painting of legendary Detroit business tycoon Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records. The portrait: Gordy dressed as Napoleon.The painting, created by a Detroit artist, is just as it sounds. Gordy, the brilliant, autocratic founder of one of the most iconic music labels ever, is depicted in early-19th-century military garb of the French emperor who tried to conquer the world.“Berry said, ‘Damn, I like that,’” the artist, DeVon Cunningham, recalled Gordy commenting when he first saw the portrait that had been commissioned by Gordy’s sister.That was in 1969 at Gordy’s former Boston-Edison home in Detroit. And that was the last time Cunningham saw the portrait....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Kevin Gover: Johnny Depp’s Tonto Isn’t Offensive, Just Weird

    Kevin Gover (Pawnee) is the director of the National Museum of the American Indian.I admit that I went to see “The Lone Ranger” expecting to be disappointed and quite likely offended by the portrayal of Indians in the movie. Both Disney and Johnny Depp, the star of the movie, had promised to remake Tonto, the iconic Indian from the television series of the 1950s. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would not be simply the “faithful Indian companion” to the title character. No, indeed. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would be the star of the movie, a character who would make Indians proud.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Relics of a Notorious Prison Go to Black History Museum

    To some people, the name of Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, brings to mind the country’s oldest prison rodeo, which draws thousands of tourists while raising money for charity. Others think of it as a repository for fearsome criminals — murderers, rapists and kidnappers — who have earned their average sentence of 93 years. Many remember it as having once been one of the most brutal and corrupt institutions in the post-Civil War South, the nearest kin to slavery that could legally exist.All of these associations and more will compete when an old guard tower and a cell from the prison are installed in the forthcoming National African American Museum for History and Culture in Washington, a place with the complex mission of presenting an official narrative of black life in America....

  • Originally published 06/23/2013

    Should African-American history have its own museum?

    This week, the US Supreme Court is expected to make a decision about the legality of affirmative action programmes that allow universities to consider race as a factor in admissions.Detractors argue that affirmative action is unnecessary in modern America and contributes to discrimination. Proponents say the programmes remain a vital way to counter centuries of racism and inequality in America.Just blocks away from the Supreme Court in Washington DC, a similar debate is going on about a shawl, some shards of glass, and other historic artefacts.They're items designated for the National Museum of African American History and Culture....But does giving each group its own museum - separate from the main Museum of American History - further segregate those who should be part of the American "melting pot" experience? Does it give special treatment to marginalised groups?Virginia Congressman Jim Moran objected to the museum on those grounds.

  • Originally published 06/07/2013

    Smithsonian 3D-scanning collection for future

    The Smithsonian has been experimenting with 3D scanning for some time now, using tools like laser arm scanners to map models of whale fossils and other ancient artifacts. Now the museum is utilizing the technology to preserve its collection for posterity. Its "laser cowboys" Vince Rossi and Adam Metallo are working full-time to record items for future generations, as part of an extensive effort to digitize 14 million prioritized objects (a list that also includes artwork and lab specimen)....

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    Smithsonian crowdsourcing yoga exhibit funding

    WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian is asking for the public to help fund an exhibit about the history of yoga.The first-ever exhibition on the visual history of yoga is scheduled to debut this fall at the Sackler Gallery....

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    Slave cabin in SC to be restored

    Curators at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture are working with restoration experts to dismantle an antebellum slave cabin on Point of Pines Plantation in Edisto Island, S.C. The cabin was donated to the museum last month by the Edisto Island Historical Society. The two-room cabin, which measures 16 by 20 feet, is believed to be in its original location and will become part of the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition in Washington when the museum opens its doors in 2015.“Slavery is one of the last great unmentionables in public discourse,” said Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum. “The cabin allows us to humanize slavery, to personalize the life of the enslaved, and frame this story as one that has shaped us all. [Slavery] is not just an African American story.”The museum had been searching for a slave cabin to display for its permanent collection. The cabin will be displayed prominently in the museum, visible from three levels. Although the cabin will be reconstructed on-site, visitors will not be able to enter or touch the cabin because of its fragility....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    George P. Horse Capture, curator at Indian museum, dies at 75

    When Native American activists from around the United States took over Alcatraz in 1969, George P. Horse Capture was a steel inspector for the California Department of Water Resources — a young man on his way to a solid career and ever further away from any sense of pride in his Montana reservation roots.“I was very happy climbing that white mountain of success,” he once said. “But then I looked down over the top, and there was nothing there.”The solution was to switch mountains. Joining the protesters for short periods over their 19-month stay, Mr. Horse Capture went on to become a passionate advocate for Native American culture and a museum curator who helped give his people an unprecedented voice in how their heritage would be presented and their artifacts displayed.“He was profoundly important in contemporary American Indian history,” said Herman Viola, a longtime friend and curator emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Hindenburg ticket goes on view

    “None of us know the Lord’s will,” Burtis J. “Bert” Dolan wrote to his wife about his journey on the new airship, the Hindenburg. He had purchased his ticket for the trip on May 1, 1937, two days before setting off from Frankfurt, Germany. It cost him 1,000 RM, equivalent to about $450 during the Great Depression, according to the National Postal Museum. His ticket survived the disaster on May 6, 1937. He did not. He died, along with 35 others.The exhibit, “Fire and Ice,” which opened in spring 2012 for the 75th anniversary, included never-before-seen discoveries like the map of the Hindenburg’s route across the Atlantic, but now, thanks to the Dolan family, it will also include what may be the only surviving passenger ticket from the disaster....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Alexander Graham Bell’s voice recorded

    WASHINGTON — Researchers have identified the voice of Alexander Graham Bell for the first time in some of the earliest audio recordings held at the Smithsonian Institution.The National Museum of American History announced Wednesday that Bell’s voice was identified with help from technicians at the Library of Congress and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The museum holds some of the earliest audio recordings ever made.Researchers found a transcript of one recording signed by Bell. It was matched to a wax disc recording from April 15, 1885.“Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell,” the inventor said.The experimental recording also includes a series of numbers. The transcript notes the record was made at Bell’s Volta Laboratory in Washington. Other recordings from the time include lines from Shakespeare....

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Maybe Cleopatra didn’t commit suicide

    The famous story of Cleopatra’s suicide gets points for drama and crowd appeal: Her lover, Mark Antony, had been defeated in battle by Octavian and, hearing that Cleopatra had been killed, had stabbed himself in the stomach. Very much alive, after witnessing his death, the beautiful last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt pressed a deadly asp to her breast, taking her own life as well.But what if Cleopatra didn’t commit suicide at all?Pat Brown, author of the new book, The Murder of Cleopatra: History’s Greatest Cold Case, argues that the “Queen of Kings” did not take her own life. Rather, she was murdered, and her perpetrators managed to spin a story that has endured for more than 2,000 years....

  • Originally published 04/02/2013

    Air & Space releases Wright bros. contract

    Were the Wright brothers first in flight? Read the fine print. A little-known 1948 contract between the estate of Orville Wright and the Smithsonian has the museum legally bound to call the Wright brothers first in flight: "The Smithsonian shall [not state] any aircraft ... earlier than the Wright aeroplane of 1903 ... was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight," it states.One aviation historian claims that contract is wrong, however, forcing the museum to ignore the truth. And for the first time, the museum has released the contract publicly to FoxNews.com, to let the world make its own decisions....

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Smithsonian skeptical over CT first flight claims

    The ongoing battle between historians over who was really first in flight was rekindled last week.New research advances the theory that a German immigrant in Connecticut is responsible for the first powered and controlled flight, rather than the Wright brothers in North Carolina.But historians at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are saying not so fast....But Peter Jakab [associate director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum] and his colleagues at the Smithsonian firmly believe that the Wright brothers were the first to fly. There are clear and crisp photos to prove it. And he discounts the numerous newspaper stories about the [Connecticut] flight....

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Smithsonian’s American history museum begins creating archive on US farming, innovation

    WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is collecting stories about agriculture innovations for a future exhibition on American business.The museum is launching a web portal Tuesday for people to share stories, photographs and materials about innovations that changed farming. The museum also is accepting items already donated by farmers in Illinois, Tennessee and California for a new agriculture archive....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Backers of American Latino national museum push bill in Congress

    Congressional backers of a proposed Smithsonian-affiliated museum devoted to the history and culture of American Latinos didn't succeed the first time around, so they're trying again.The bipartisan bills resubmitted Friday in the U.S. House and Senate aim to designate an unused, 132-year-old Smithsonian building on the National Mall in Washington as the future site of an American Latino Museum.If passed, it would not commit the federal government to build and fund the museum. Instead, it would designate the historic Arts and Industries building as its main site, and launch a planning process by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents to consider design and construction issues and funding....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning

    Arthur M. Sackler GalleryWashington, D.C.March 9 through April 28When Thomas Jefferson was in need of guidance he turned, as many statesmen did, to that handbook of political subtleties, Machiavelli's "The Prince." But arguably more important to the third U.S. president was a biography by the Greek historian Xenophon called "Cyropedia." In fact, he seems to have admired the book so much he owned two copies. With many an imaginative flourish, it told the story of King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, whose realm stretched from the Mediterranean to eastern Iran and from the Black Sea to the borders of Arabia in the south.Xenophon, who lived between 430 and 355 B.C., described how Cyrus owed his triumphs to "the sheer terror of his personality," but what made him attractive to Jefferson was not his military prowess but his enlightened approach to government....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Smithsonian vows regular hours if cuts take effect

    The world's largest museum complex is bracing for a $40 million cut in funding due to the budget stalemate in Congress, but the Smithsonian Institution vows to keep the doors open at its museums and National Zoo.Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas says the attractions will maintain normal visiting hours.Instead, the Smithsonian is preparing to absorb the funding cut in other ways. Maintenance and new construction will be delayed. Hiring will be frozen. Use of outside contractors will be reduced, as well as training, research and travel...

  • Originally published 02/13/2013

    Plan to save America’s audio history

    The Library of Congress is sharing its National Recording Preservation Plan on Wednesday, outlining its strategy for safeguarding America’s sound recordings for future generations of listeners.The congressionally mandated plan arrives after more than a decade of cooperation between the library and its National Recording Preservation Board, which includes composers, musicians, archivists, librarians, musicologists and other figures in the recording industry.“As a nation, we have good reason to be proud of our record of creativity in the sound-recording arts and sciences,” James H. Billington, librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “However, our collective energy in creating and consuming sound recordings has not been matched by an equal level of interest in preserving them for posterity.”...

  • Originally published 02/07/2013

    Smithsonian American Indian museum tackles racist stereotypes, mascots in American sports

    WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins’ team name has been the subject of legal battles, political debate and now will be part of a scholarly discussion at the Smithsonian about the use of Native American mascots and nicknames in American sports.The National Museum of the American Indian will host a daylong symposium Thursday entitled “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports.” Scholars, sports writers and Native Americans will gather for the public discussion.The Redskins’ name, perhaps the most visible, has been the subject of ongoing debate. As recently as Tuesday night, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray specifically avoided saying the name of Washington’s NFL franchise in his State of the District speech and instead referred to “our Washington football team.”...

  • Originally published 02/07/2013

    Smithsonian museums host series of programs to mark Black History Month

    WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian is celebrating Black History Month with a series of programs in February.Throughout the month, the National Museum of American History will present performances by historical characters in “Join the Student Sit-Ins.” Visitors will meet a civil rights activist from 1960 and take part in a training session based on an actual civil rights manual to prepare for a sit-in. The performance is presented Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.On Monday, the National Museum of American History will mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation by hosting a webcast for high school students. Scholars will reflect on the abolition movement of the 19th century....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Curators from Smithsonian’s new black history museum scout for artifacts at Obama’s inaugural

    WASHINGTON — As crowds descended and the inauguration unfolded, a few museum curators in Washington kept watch for symbols and messages that would make history.The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open during President Barack Obama’s second term, and one section will feature a large display about the first black president. Curators have been working since 2008 to gather objects, documents and images that capture his place in history.Curator William Pretzer ventured into the crowd Monday, mostly looking for memorabilia that had a personal touch — beyond the T-shirts and buttons hawked by vendors. Pretzer was most interested in handmade items, but he didn’t find much....

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    National Museum of American History seeks help building collection showing farm innovations

    WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History working with farmers to build a new collection showing the evolution of modern agriculture.The museum announced Monday that it’s working with the American Farm Bureau Federation to collect items that reflect innovation in farming and ranching over the past 70 years. Curators are seeking stories, photographs and objects for a future exhibition.The first donation was announced by a Tennessee farmer at the farm bureau’s annual meeting in Nashville. A multigenerational dairy will donate a computer cow tag system and photographs to show how the dairy became a modernized operation.The museum will open a web portal in March to collect stories and photographs online....

  • Originally published 04/10/2014

    Arab moderates' ‘Iran problem’ is in Washington

    "Without any guarantees, the United States began lifting sanctions and the White House threatened to veto any new sanctions leveled by Congress. Predictably, the Khomeini regime resumed its build-up of strategic weapons, mainly missiles, and continued meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and most worrisome to the Gulf, in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen" 

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